People don’t know how to search

People don’t know how to search: Simon, a commenter on the preceding post, links to a page on that will allow you to see what the AOL search data reveals about search terms that lead to specific websites. On the page, click on a URL to see which terms lead there. For example, what are the search terms that lead people to Google the most? That would be “google” and “” Indeed, over 250,000 of AOL searches are for the search term “google.” Also, note how this pattern repeats itself on nearly every example of a website result: The number one search term is the URL without the .com and the number two search term is the URL with the .com. In other words, it appears that alot of people type in a URL into the search box on their browser instead of into the navigation field of their browser when they are looking for a specific website. (I’m going to have to admit to some ignorance here, as I don’t use the AOL service where this came from — perhaps this is a commentary on the confusing nature of the tool instead of the user.) However, if this is a practice that users of other browsers exhibit, it explains why the current Pontiac TV ads instruct viewers to find the Pontiac website by typing in the word “Pontiac” on Google, rather than by promoting their URL. No matter what, it seems to suggest there are lots of people out there who don’t know where to type in a URL on their browser, even if they know it. To help AOL users and others with some basics of how to search, I created this (p.s., after typing in the URL, hit return. Also, a “URL” is the web address, like

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6 thoughts on “People don’t know how to search

  1. Thanks for the laugh, Rex! I always enjoy blog posts that make fun of AOL users! 🙂 (I also checked out the link…some of those search terms were hilarious!)

  2. Rex:

    Sadly, it’s no joke. about 30% of the people observe using a web browser type a complete URL in the search box. It seems to be for two main reasons:

    1. Their home page is a search engine home page and they look for the white box in the middle of the screen, no matter what it really does.

    2. They did it once and it works, so they have always done it this way.

    As a business owner, I’m sure you can identify with #2. I’ll bet you’ve found plenty of smart, well-intentioned people doing important things in the worst, least-efficient manner.


  3. my anecdotal add is that i have watched my mom type complete URLs or partial URLs into the google search box in an open window over and over – but don’t completely blame the user. set your browser default page to and open a new window and start typing. where has your cursor been placed? right in the search bar. that’s how it works for safari and firefox on a Mac at least. sometimes i get ahead of myself and open a window with CMD+N and instantly start typing in the URL bar only to have, my default page, load and intercept the URL I am typing half way through.

  4. I’m not “blaming” the user — in fact, I’m sure I’m an inefficient user of lots of things. And, while it’s hard to believe, I was actually trying to help people by doing the “help for AOL users.” Knowing where to type in a URL is one of the basic elements of using a web browser — a “primitive” as I heard such building blocks described earlier this week. I’m on a kick to help people learn how to do the basics better. I’m going to start dedicating a portion of my blog-time to ‘how-tos’

  5. all you need to do is listen to a few of our tech support calls and how many of them are not really for our products, but result from an inability to use e-mail clients and web browsers effectively.

  6. Lewis is right, many time people make this mistake because they are concentrating on getting the URL right and haven’t noticed that their home page has opened with the focus in the searchbox. I’ve experienced this recently with a new work intranet homepage (mandatory I’m afraid) that does exactly this. It’s great when the search is the primary reason for going to that page, but sucks when you just wanted a browser window opened to go to a specific URL. It’s made worse by the fact that if you’re fast enough you CAN beat the page load and get the URL into the address field …

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